How do I properly prep the metal I'm about to weld?
One of the most important things you can do to ensure a good, solid weld is to clean or prep the metal work piece prior to making an arc. Dust and debris left on or near a weld joint have a tendency to make it into that perfect weld bead you've just laid down, and while metal prep isn't fun, its necessary.
Step 1: Remove any coatings, rust, dust and debris
The first step to any great weld is to make sure you're looking at metal. If you think there might be anything between your work piece and your bead, get it cleaned up. Things like protective paint coatings, rust (oxidation) and many other types of dust and debris can cause major problems when it comes to laying your bead.
Removing these coatings, rust and dust/dirt is easy with the right tools. Depending on the type of metal that you're working with, wire brushes, wire wheels, flap discs, grinding wheels, polishing wheels and even sandpaper can help you get that weld clean. Angle grinders are great for this type of work, and for the tougher stuff, you can use something called abrasive blasting which shoots a stream of abrasive material against a surface under high pressure to get down to that bare metal. Feel free to contact us if you're looking for a recommendation to clean up something specific. We're here to help!
Step 2: Make sure you're protected
Preparing to weld isn't just about making sure the metal is shiny and free of debris. It's about making sure you are safe. At ShopWeldingSupplies, safety is always the most important factor when it comes to welding. We've listed some of the common hazards and how to protect yourself from them.
Welding Fumes & Gases
Welding fumes are toxic; Plain and simple. They're a combination of metallic oxides, silicates and fluorides.
Protecting yourself doesn't have to be overly complicated though. You'll need to make sure you've got adequate ventilation to make sure those fumes don't end up in your face for you to breathe them in. At a minimum, you want to make sure you've got good ventilation to the outdoors where you are working, and you're wearing a particulate respirator underneath your welding hood. Some respirator manufacturers even list their respirators as "welding" respirators to help make choosing the right respirator easier.
Ideally, you want to make sure your weld piece is under a fume extractor that is going to pull dangerous welding fumes away from you and out of your work space. There are some great fume extractors out there to fit nearly any budget.
In welding, the most common way that an electrical shock happens is called secondary voltage shock from an arc welding circuit that ranges 20-100 volts. Electric shock can happen when a welder touches two metal objects that have a voltage between them. When they do that, they're adding themselves to the electrical circuit, and that's bad news. As a result of the constant change in polarity, (AC) alternating current voltage is known to be more fatal than (DC) direct current welders.
Ways you can stay safe include inspecting electrode holders and cable for damage, wearing dry gloves that are in good condition, and never touching the electrode or metal parts of the electrode holder with wet clothing or your skin. Always insulate yourself from the work and ground. When stick welding, remember that stick electrodes are always hot electrically, even when you aren't actively welding.
General PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
In addition to protecting yourself from those nasty welding fumes and electrocution, get down to the basics and make sure you've got a good pair of welding gloves, a flame resistant welding jacket, welding hood and steel toed boots if possible. If you're just doing surface prep, wear a face shield to protect your face and a great pair of gloves.
As with many things in life, preparation is key to welding success. Making sure you're ready to weld before you actually do can be the difference between a messy, unstable weld and a weld that's just as strong as the original solid material.